Star Wars Episode VIII will start from the moment The Force Awakens left off

While this year’s Star Wars Celebration Europe has given out relatively little details on 2017’s Episode VIIIfocusing primarily on Rouge One, due out later this year – the film’s director Rian Johnson, accompanied by Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy, did give us some new information about the film during their panel on the future of the film franchise.

Firstly, we know when the film is going to be set. At least in its opening frames. “This is going to start right where the last one left off,” Johnson told the crowd, calling it “a break from tradition.” In fact, production started by recreating the final moments of the last film (so, we’re guessing Hamill finally gets to say something!). He also told the crowd that the film would be character driven, saying we’ll be zooming in on them, “getting to the heart of (the characters) and challenging them.”

Johnson went on to reveal that much of the storyline for Episode VIII was developed while VII was still filming, “We would watch dailies come in from VII,” he said, “it was probably really healthy creating the story based on our reactions to the footage rather than the cultural reactions.”

Adding to the tease, stars John Boyega, Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher all popped out to surprise fans during the panel. Boyega spoke about how much he’s enjoying working the director, and gave a hint as to some of the aesthetic he’s working with, “He is doing an indie movie within a studio franchise.” Given the director’s previous work – such as Brick or Looper – this may come as little surprise to some fans of his work. But what may come as some surprise is what Johnson used to prepare for the film. Johnson said the 1949 World War II drama Twelve O’Clock High “became extremely important” in the lead-up to filming. Fans may want to hunt the film down to seek out some hints as to why this was the case.

He also pointed to films like Mikhail Kalatozov’s Letter Never Sent, The Bridge On The River Kwai, and Sahara. But don’t worry, Boyega promised that Johnson is bringing “new energy for a new story,” and not living in the past. Kennedy also praised the director, saying he “moves the camera as good as Steven Spielberg”.

Hamill, Fisher and Boyega will all return in Episode VIII, alongside Episode VII castmates Adam Driver, Daisy Ridley, Oscar Isaac, Lupita Nyong’o, Domhnall Gleeson, Anthony Daniels, Gwendoline Christie and Andy Serkis. Benicio Del Toro, Laura Dern and Kelly Marie Tran have all been confirmed as new cast members.

Star Wars Episode VIII opens 14th December 2017